Deborah MacDonnell, director of public relations in the Office of Communications, died Nov. 4, 2018 after an extended illness. She was a talented writer, a wonderful collaborator and a trusted friend to many at the College and in the community.
A native of Madison and a longtime resident of Niantic, she joined Connecticut College in 2006 as a senior writer and was soon promoted to director of public relations. In that role, she oversaw media relations, emergency communications, legislative affairs, internal communications and major institutional events, as well as serving as the main liaison between the College and the greater southeastern Connecticut community.
She had a tremendous impact on the Conn campus. She worked closely with colleagues across all divisions, playing a role in every major initiative of the past 12 years. Her many accomplishments included implementing the College’s first emergency alert system; creating the Founders Day celebration in advance of the College’s Centennial, an event so popular that it continues to this day; raising the national profile of the Green Dot bystander intervention program; redesigning key campus events, such as Convocation and Commencement; and helping to establish the College’s partnership with One Book One Region of Eastern Connecticut. This last initiative touched the lives of thousands of people by bringing great writers like Mohsin Hamid, Yaa Gyasi and Bryan Stevenson to the College to discuss important issues of our time.
She was a mentor to many campus employees as well as to students who worked in the Office of Communications. She always took the time to answer questions, offer advice and pitch in to help when a deadline loomed. And she had a wonderful sense of humor that put people at ease.
Her work with the local community was exemplary. She served on the Rotary Club of New London in various capacities over the years and was vice president before being named president-elect in June 2018. The Rotary honored her with the Paul Harris Fellowship. She also served on the board of directors of the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition, volunteered regularly at the New London Community Meal Center and taught Sunday school.
Those who worked closely with her know of her high standards, attention to detail and skill in managing complex and challenging situations with grace and dignity. She was a beautiful, talented and deeply thoughtful woman who inspired many with her love and loyalty to Connecticut College.
She is survived by her husband Bob MacDonnell; her children, Madeline and Kyle; her sister-in-law Amy Hart, who works at the campus bookshop; her colleagues in the Office of Communications; and her many friends and colleagues throughout the extended Connecticut College community.